Response to self-employed income support scheme

Richard Harris – Chief Legal Officer at global recruitment consultancy (31 countries) Robert Walters Plc: “The Chancellor’s announcement offers a package of support for vast swaths of the self-employed and freelancer community.

“This is Keynesian – a new “New Deal” but with self-employed rather than big industry, and underlines the massive importance of the Gig Economy to UK PLC – and as the Chancellor put it “righting the ship”. This is a lifeline for many.

“However, Rishi Sunak is focusing on helping those least likely to weather the storm. The self-employed making profits of over £50,000 will not be part of the scheme. This will adversely affect those in white-collar professional jobs.

“Perversely, those putting large amounts of expenses against their income – who are on the cusp of this threshold – may be inadvertently better off.

“Rishi Sunak was quick to point out that many of these excluded self-employed who earn over £200,000 per annum. There will still be some who float just above the threshold who may not be pleased with the outcome. “Rishi Sunak could have implemented a more complex and graduated system to help these individuals. Still, I believe the Chancellor has gone for simplicity, and quick-delivery rather than trying to save everyone – its triage and the Chancellor is unapologetic about this stance.

“There was also a warning – or at least the hint of caution – for the self-employed. From Rishi Sunak’s “observation” as to the fairness in the differential in tax between PAYE and the Self-Employed, he may well be looking for those who are being bailed out to pay the ferryman for a journey across the swirling waters.

“The controversial new off-payroll rules (IR35) due to come in April 2020 are already delayed for 12 months could be a temporary reprieve. I would personally like to see a fundamental rethink around IR35 and what it is to be self-employed in the 2020’s.

“Those changes created a colossal burden on business and a lack of clarity for individuals. Surely with Rishi’s dynamism, we can do better?

“Finally, there was nothing about Agency Workers who are technically self-employed although on the PAYE system. This group contains some of the most vulnerable individuals, including those on zero-hour contracts. I am hoping and expecting these people are included when the detail of the Job Retention Scheme is announced.”